Lyft’s app for drivers is getting a major overhaul


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Lyft’s app for drivers is getting a major overhaul
24/7 phone support at the touch of a button

by Andrew J. [email protected] Sep 25, 2017

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Lyft is updating its app for drivers, adding features like 24/7 phone support in English and Spanish, and a “destination” option that lets some drivers pick up fares on their way to and from work.

only recently have Uber and Lyft heeded the call for more robust lines of communication.

Lyft’s driver app, which first debuted back in May, is being updated to allow drivers to connect with a customer service representative at the touch of a button. Lyft says it made the decision to add costly 24/7 phone support after listening to feedback from drivers. A common complaint among ride-hail drivers is the lack of communication with actual employees of the app for which they drive. For years, email was the only way drivers could get questions and concerns addressed, and eyeing a number of markets outside the States for possible expansion.

Other new features include a “destination” option that allows drivers to input a specific location (like work or home) and pick up fares that are along their preplanned route. (Uber is also doing this.) Drivers will also now be able to access “ride guides” that use “historical data from Lyft requests to give individual drivers hints on where they should go to get their next ride,” the company says. And Lyft drivers will be able to schedule “high-earning” trips through the app ahead of time. (It’s unclear how this will dovetail with the preexisting feature that allows users to book rides ahead of time.)

Surveys suggest that Lyft drivers are happier than those that drive for Uber, citing higher earnings and better customer service from the app company. Lyft is also better at retaining its drivers. A recent analysis by Apptopia suggests the smaller ride-hail service is more adept at keeping drivers on its platform than its larger rival.

Lyft is hot on the heels of Uber, which just added 24/7 phone support for its drivers last July. This came after Uber added a tipping option to its app, a feature that Lyft had offered since first launching in 2014. With Lyft aiming to take advantage of Uber’s annus horirbilis (as Kara Swisher calls it), the two ride-hail services are looking more similar than ever before. Uber is still exponentially larger, with thousands of more drivers and riders than Lyft. But while Lyft wants to be seen as “woke” alternative to the bumbling Uber, its internal mechanics have become practically indistinguishable from its beleaguered rival.
Lost something in an Uber? You’ll now have to pay your driver $15 to get it back
Also new: 24/7 phone support for drivers
by Andrew J. [email protected] Jul 25, 2017

Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images

It’s a common occurrence: you’re a little buzzed from happy hour, so you call an Uber home. And just as the driver pulls away after dropping you off, you realize you left your phone inside the car. Previously, all you had to do was log on to your Uber account from a friend’s phone or a web browser, contact the driver, and according to Uber, coordinate a “mutually convenient time and place to meet” to get your phone back.


But for drivers, returning lost items was rarely ever convenient. Many would complain about the difficulty of tracking down passengers to return lost phones and keys. Uber, which is in the midst of a “180 days of change” apology tour aimed at improving relations with its drivers, says it has finally heard those complaints and is doing something about it. Starting today, passengers will have pay their drivers a flat fee of $15 for returning forgotten items. Uber’s calling the new charge “a delivery fee,” estimating that drivers return an average of 11 lost items a year. (According to online driver forum, Uber may have been piloting the delivery fee in Los Angeles before rolling it out nationwide today.)

This was just one of several new perks outlined by Uber in an email to its hundreds of thousands of US drivers today. Other benefits include the promise of 24/7 phone support, quick fare fixes in the app, protections for driver ratings, faster document review, and the option to schedule in-person support meetings. These new features come a few weeks after Uber, in a major shift, added a tipping option to its app in over 100 US cities.

Uber will be hiring more call center employees in order to meet the demand it’s creating through the addition of 24/7 phone support for drivers, a spokesperson said. Uber outsources some of its US customer support to overseas call centers, in addition to using some US-based services. The spokesperson wouldn’t specify which Uber call centers would see more staffing.

series of major scandals, including revelations about pervasive sexual harassment and a toxic work environment. In the past few months, a critical mass of top executives, including founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, have resigned or been fired. And while the search is under way for a new CEO, Uber is doing what it can to keep the drivers it still has — and keep them happy.

“From a quick phone call to speedier paperwork to in-person visits — our goal is to be there for drivers, whenever and wherever they need us,” Rachel Holt, regional general manager for the US and Canada, and Aaron Schildkrout, head of product for drivers, wrote in a blog post today.

These features may go a long way toward appeasing some drivers, but others won’t be satisfied until they are reclassified as employees of Uber. The company currently classifies its drivers as independent contractors, arguing they are in business for themselves and thus ineligible for traditional benefits like overtime and health insurance. It also has strongly pushed back against attempts to allow drivers to unionize, even injecting anti-union messaging in the podcasts it produces for drivers.

later rejected by a judge as an insufficient amount. Earlier this year, Uber was fined $20 million by the Federal Trade Commission for misleading drivers about earnings.

A coalition of labor groups and stakeholders recently put forward a series of recommendations to make Uber a more ethical company, such as paying drivers a living wage and making payroll tax contributions to workers compensation, social security, and unemployment insurance.

This isn’t the first time Uber has made a series of major tweaks in the hopes of assuaging relations with its drivers. Last year, the company rolled out a bunch of new driver-friendly features, including more control over their ride requests, fines for riders who make drivers wait too long, and even discounts on Uber rides. The company has also rebuilt the navigation system that’s built into the driver app. Also, earlier this year, Uber made some big changes to the way it handles complaints against drivers to take into account a driver’s history as well.

As Uber continues to pursue its dream of a completely driverless future, it’s not difficult to imagine the mindset within the company that radical changes are tolerable, as long as they’re only temporary.